August 10, 2019

By Isaac Mizrahi - CCo-President of ALMA

When I sit down with marketers who claim their multicultural marketing efforts didn’t work, I try to dissect the underlying reasons of this potential failure and curious enough, most marketers don’t even know these reasons themselves. In this article, I am focusing on my experience comparing what separates successful from unsuccessful multicultural marketing programs.

1 – Marketing Means More Than Advertising:

This is probably the most common mistake marketers make when they plan their multicultural marketing programs; reducing an entire strategic plan to a single advertising flowchart, and possibly featuring a message that is not fully relevant to the target, supported by a restricted media mix and a bare-minimum amount of continuity, reach and frequency.

A strong multicultural marketing plan starts assessing the state of the business from a multicultural perspective and analyzes the brand purchase funnel, distribution gaps, adequate sales, and customer service adequacy levels, cross-selling and upselling strategies.

Moreover, the plan includes relevant messaging strategies based on true consumer’ insights and also touches on important aspects such as community partnership and employees recruitment and engagement.

Learning: A multicultural marketing program includes a strong advertising plan, but it is not exclusively based on advertising.

2 - Short-Term Focus:

Frequently, when I asked why a certain brand doesn’t have a strong multicultural marketing program, I hear the same answer: “We have tried it before; it didn’t work.” However, most of the time, when we assess these past programs, we realize that this conclusion was reached after reading a few weekly, maybe a few quarterly, data results.

When a brand decides to invest in multicultural segments with a focus on short-term results, there is a high probability that it will fail, since success with these segments tend to be the result of a consistent level of investment measured in years, not weeks or months, as any program requires constant adjustments and fine-tuning.

Moreover, marketers tend to ignore the fact that brands may have different life-cycles for different targets, meaning that multicultural consumers may not have reached the same level of awareness or experience with a brand like other consumers who have been exposed to a brand for many more years.

Learning: When it comes to multicultural marketing, long-term consistency is key.

3 - The Investment Level Was Not Adequate:

When multicultural segments in America represent almost 35% of the country’s population, a significant percentage of your sales and, in several cases, most (if not all) of your incremental sales growth but you still “invest” 10% or less of your marketing funds in multicultural marketing you’re not expecting ROI, you’re really looking for a miracle.

In my experience, the majority of the brands investing in multicultural marketing under-invest in comparison to the contribution these segments have on a brand’s growth level. This is mostly driven by an inability to reframe your current resource allocation.

Most brands allocate their marketing funds based on previous years, with room for small fine-tuned adjustments. This is an approach that protects the status quo and avoids transformational changes.

Given that multicultural marketing investments already start from a small base, chances are they probably will not reach their optimal investment level. This fuels the famous “incrementalism” illusion, which creates the perception that when marketers “find” incremental resources, they will definitely fund multicultural marketing programs.

Learning: Your multicultural marketing investment should be proportional to the size of the opportunity, either measured by existing purchasing power or future growth projections.

4 – Leadership Turnover:

Most multicultural programs in the marketplace are connected to a passionate leader in the organization who was able to gather the minimum resources to get the program started. Once this person leaves the position or the organization, most multicultural programs tend to lose momentum, and resources tend to be reduced or completely eliminated until a new champion brings the idea back to life.

This process tends to repeat itself every four to five years, and costs corporations a significant amount of money and energy, as most of the times they keep trying to reinvent, re-learn and re-test what their predecessors have already done, and learned, years ago. Leading organizations in multicultural marketing protect themselves from this cycle by setting the need for a robust and relevant multicultural marketing approach at the board level: CEOs and CFOs champion these programs, CMOs and their teams implement them and make them as part of their performance objectives.

Learning: Effective multicultural programs have longevity and have mechanisms to protects themselves from constant executive turnover. A top-down approach starting with the board of directors and C-suite is recommended.

5 – Reaching Is Not Connecting:

Most marketers believe that reaching multicultural consumers via sophisticated media plan is enough, but in reality, it does not necessarily mean that you’re actually connecting with these consumers since reaching someone does not mean you’re connecting with them, it only means an opportunity to see your ad.

Recent studies on the topic of multicultural marketing commissioned by leading companies like Nielsen, Simmons, and Kantar have reached similar conclusions regarding the best approach to connect with ethnic consumers. It is fundamental to focus on culture, understand the best context for your message, and make it relatable is very important, never stereotyped, never complacent to the target.

It is curious how some marketers invest a significant amount of money and time in understanding their media choices, but so little attention and rigor is given to understand what effective multicultural creative is. A great media plan with mediocre creative strategy and low production value will not improve your brand’s performance, while a great creative idea, based on meaningful insights and produced with craft may not require a significant amount of media dollars.

Learning: When it comes to multicultural marketing, reaching the target is not enough. Building culturally affinity is more important than the quality of your media plan, and best in class marketers invest properly to develop effective multicultural creative messages.

6 – Your Measurement Plan Is Not Adequate:

Measuring the effectiveness of multicultural marketing programs can be very challenging, as existing tools tend to have a limitation on their samples or distributions. The lack of awareness of these limitations by most marketers, and how much they rely on these limited sources to make their decisions, surprises me.

In my experience, leading brands in multicultural marketing have invested in a combination of external and proprietary measurement tools, ranging from sales and market share performance to consumer attitudes and behaviors, social media listening, and messaging trackers. All of these supported by robust samples (including the size of the sample and composition breakdown, including language preference, for instance).

Learning: Having an understanding of your KPIs and most importantly, how to measure them is key before implementing any multicultural marketing effort. Any measurement plan may have limitations, and understanding these limitations is key for assessing your results and acting on them.

7 – True Experts Are Not Involved:

Sometimes decisions are made based on either stereotypical thinking or recommendations from executives who claim to understand the latest trends and opportunities around these segments.

Almost every single day we read on the news about a brand that messed up when it came to multicultural marketing, most of them have had “good intentions.” In almost every single case, it is clear that early involvement from truly seasoned multicultural experts could have been avoided the troubles faced by the brands and, most importantly, minimized the negative impact on these brands’ reputation and saved these companies money.

Learning: Effective multicultural marketing requires expertise, which can’t be confused with having a diverse set of people around you. If they don’t have a meaningful experience in multicultural marketing, their views may be biased.

Effective multicultural marketing programs should be built with a combination of learnings, successes and failures. Early obstacles can be discouraging, but avoiding this list of mistakes can help your brand to get back on track. We are reaching a point in our country when not having a multicultural marketing plan is no longer an option, but having an effective one still is.


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